Writing under the Raj: Gender, Race, and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947

By Nancy L. Paxton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Modernism, Irony, and the Erasure of Rape

RECONTEXTUALIZING A PASSAGE TO INDIA

Men are very slow in changing their philosophy about women. I fancy their idea of the maternal relation is firmest fixed of all.

Sara Jeannette Duncan, "A Mother in India"1

By the time that E. M. Forster Passage to India was completed and published in 1924, Englishwomen's relation to the "historical real," and their participation in the "social contract" in Great Britain, had again been profoundly changed. In 1919, married and single middle-class women over thirty were given the right to vote, though five million younger and poorer single women could not vote until 1928 ( Kent, 221). In the first decade following the Great War, some legal reforms were also directed toward improving British women's economic position. Some reforms were directed toward addressing the economic situation of unmarried women who had children. In 1918, the Bastardy Laws of 1872 were amended, doubling the amount men were to pay to support their illegitimate children. By 1923, the Matrimonial Causes Act legally removed the sexual double standard limiting the conditions for which women could file for divorce, and granting twice the amount previously paid for child support to women who won custody of their children ( Kent, 221-222). Other obstacles blocking their access to jobs in the legal and other professions were eventually eliminated, for instance, with the passage of the Sex Disqualification Removal Act in 1928. These legal changes acknowledged many of the false premises of Victorian chivalry and gender arrangements and rectified some of the most obvious legal inequities in the social contract, especially in regard to women's sexual and reproductive capacities.

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